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Fatah: Communications launched with Hamas to resolve political crisis

April 13, 2017 1:01 P.M. (Updated: April 27, 2017 1:04 P.M.)
Azzam Ahmad (File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Direct and indirect communications are underway between Fatah and Hamas leaders, a member of Fatah’s central committee said on Thursday, in order for the two movements to take “practical steps towards ending the conflict” between the two political factions, which was aggravated last weekend when the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) cut the salaries of their Gaza-based employees.

Azzam Ahmad told the Voice of Palestine radio station on Thursday morning that he hoped that discussions with Hamas would not “force him to take a stand that would complicate the situation more,” seemingly referring to measures the PA would implement against Hamas, the de facto leading party in the besieged Gaza Strip, if an agreement cannot be reached.

He said that he looked forward to reaching an understanding with Hamas to form a unity government in the Gaza Strip, merged with the PA government in the occupied West Bank, which could lead to an end to the political conflict.

Ahmad added that the Fatah delegation scheduled to visit Gaza in coming days had been tasked with creating “decisive results,” in contrast to what he said was Hamas’ behavior of “wasting time when it acts exactly the opposite of what it declares.”

On Wednesday, Hamas met with various political factions in the besieged enclave to discuss past and future meetings with Fatah, and to prepare for the Fatah delegation's arrival in the besieged coastal enclave.

Drastic pay cuts to the salaries of PA employees last weekend deepened a nearly decade-long political conflict between Hamas and Fatah, as PA civil servants received their March salaries only to find that they had been cut by at least 30 percent. The move sparked protests in the enclave as employees accused the PA of targeting Gaza-based employees, highlighting that cuts were not made to civil servants in the occupied West Bank.

Since Hamas’ rise to power in Gaza in 2007, the PA has continued paying its employees who refused to work with the Hamas-led authorities in protest. These employees had continued to receive regular payments from the PA until last week.

However, some 50,000 employees who decided to continue to work under Hamas subsequently faced irregular and partial salaries from the PA, and at times no payments at all, plunging most into an economic crisis since 2007.

On Monday, Hamas accused the PA and its Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who previously attempted to shift blame on Hamas, of "creating this conspiracy upon direct orders from President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Hamas also described the move as "discriminatory,” saying it would “deepen the state of disagreement and the political and social chasm" between the West Bank and Gaza.

During a press conference on Friday, Hamdallah claimed that the base salaries of PA government employees in Gaza “were not touched,” but rather that deductions were made only to monthly salary allowances or bonuses, in order to “manage financial crises suffered by the Palestinian government due to reductions in international funds.”

At the same time, Hamdallah criticized Hamas, saying that Hamas “keeps its income for itself, while the PA has spent more than 17 billion dollars in the Gaza Strip during the last 10 years.”

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov released a statement on Saturday in which he expressed his “deep concerns” over the “growing tensions” in Gaza. Mladenov said in the statement that the salary cuts came as an additional burden to civil servants in Gaza who struggle to survive in an already dire situation.

The UN official echoed criticisms voiced in recent days that the "discriminatory" deductions only affected PA civil servants in Gaza and not those working in the occupied West Bank, as some Palestinians have expressed concern that the cuts would only continue to isolate Gaza Palestinians from the rest of the Palestinian territory.

Numerous attempts have been made in the past to reconcile Hamas and Fatah since they came into violent conflict in 2007, shortly after Hamas’ 2006 victory in general elections held in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliations, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.
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